Residues of veterinary drugs and other substances found in animals and animal products have fallen in the European Union, according to recently published statistics.
Data from the annual report for 2021, published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), includes pigs, sheep, poultry, milk, eggs, game meat, and honey.
Notable findings were fipronil in eggs, clenbuterol in bovines, amitraz in honey, and phenylbutazone (bute) in horses.
More than 621,000 samples were reported to the European Commission by the 27 EU member states, Iceland, Norway, and Northern Ireland. They consisted of mainly targeted tests and sampling as part of national controls but also suspect samples and those collected at import.
Overall, the percentage of non‐compliant samples in 2021 was lower than in past years.
Examples of violations
The level of non-compliance in targeted samples, which are taken to detect illegal uses or check maximum compliance against permitted levels, also decreased. In 2021, 4,562 suspect samples were reported of which 119 were non-compliant, compared to 200 in 2020.
The report covers hormones, antibacterials, environmental contaminants, prohibited substances, and other veterinary drugs. The presence of unauthorized substances, residues of veterinary medicinal products, or chemical contaminants in food may pose a risk to public health.
Fipronil in eggs was found in one sample from Slovenia while amitraz was detected in three of 17 honey samples from Cyprus. Non-compliant results for phenylbutazone came from Ireland and Germany. In targeted sampling, clenbuterol was found in one bovine sample from Germany and two suspect samples from Portugal.
In 2021, the frequency of non‐compliant results was down for antithyroid agents, while for steroids and resorcylic acid lactones, it was higher than in 2020. For prohibited substances, the level of non‐compliance in 2021 was up from the year before. Decreases compared to previous years were noted for environmental contaminants and chemical elements including metals and dyes.
For mycotoxins, non-compliant targeted samples were reported for bovines, milk, and pigs due to zearalenone and aflatoxin M1. For dyes, non-compliant samples were recorded for aquaculture. Substances found were the sum of crystal violet and leucocristal violet and the sum of malachite green and leucomalachite green.
Animal welfare work
EFSA has also published two scientific opinions with advice on space, the density of animals, lighting, dust, noise, litter, and structures such as elevated platforms for farmed broiler chickens and laying hens.
Scientists recommend avoiding the practice of mutilation, feed restriction, and the use of cages to improve poultry welfare. Revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation is ongoing.
EFSA is organizing an online event to present findings from its two opinions on broiler chickens and laying hens on March 28. A second event on the upcoming opinions on calves, dairy cows, ducks, geese, and quail will be held on May 23.
A joint statement from the European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders (EFFAB); AVEC, which represents the EU poultry meat sector, and Copa-Cogeca said the opinion contains “unprecedented recommendations” which would severely impact the sector.
Of the recommendations put forward by EFSA, the most shocking is the proposal to lower the stock density for conventional broilers. If applied, this would mean the EU will request conventional poultry producers to make major on-farm investments while the number of birds in a barn will have to be decreased by 72 percent, said the groups.
Implementing such extreme proposals would result in closing small and medium enterprises in rural areas, losing competitiveness, and increasing imports, while facing an increase in the price of poultry meat for consumers, they added.
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